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Disney World Questions from a Reader

Last week, we received some questions from a reader about her upcoming Disney World trip. Since Disney is one of my favorite subjects, I’m happy to answer Disney World questions from my perspective.

Keep in mind that Disney veterans have a wide range of opinions on the answers to these questions, so there are many who will disagree with my advice. Please feel free to add your advice and recommendations in the comments section. Thanks!

Should We Stay Onsite or Offsite?

The reader’s initial inquiry:

“Planning to visit for 7 nights in middle of June 2018.  I have done a full price comparison of staying on a WDW property v. offsite @ Hyatt Place Lake Buena Vista on points.  Of course, staying offsite is theoretically cheaper (even with a car rental and parking fees at all the parks); however, will it be worth it? (Would we benefit from Disney Buses/Transportation, Magical Express from MCO Airport to the resort, Magic Bands, etc.)”

This is a really hard question for me to answer because my family has stayed both onsite and offsite and we have had good experiences all around.

Hyatt Place Lake Buena Vista/Orlando costs 12,000 World of Hyatt points a night. It does have a free shuttle, so you don’t even have to drive to the parks and pay the parking fee. You could even take Uber from the airport and skip the rental car altogether. However, you will have a slightly longer walk to the offsite hotel shuttle pickup areas inside the parks, although in my opinion the extra walk isn’t too bad.

Many travel agents will try to convince you that you will have an inferior Disney experience if you stay offsite. Just remember that they get a larger commission from onsite Disney resorts, so convincing you to stay onsite is in their best interest.

For onsite resorts, keep in mind that if you are looking at rates far in the future, you are looking at the “rack rates”. Disney usually releases some type of room discount as you get closer to your visit. If you book online, Disney will not adjust your rates down automatically, you will have to call to get the discount applied. If you use a travel agent, most good travel agents will automatically apply all discounts to your reservation. You can look at historical promotions and discounts here.

The biggest downside to staying at the Hyatt Place or other offsite hotels is that you can only reserve your Fast Pass + rides and times 30 days in advance (as opposed to 60+ days in advance if you stay at an onsite Disney resort). I’ve reserved rides on Fast Pass + as short as one day in advance for a last-minute trip, and all rides in the Magic Kingdom were still available to us except for two (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Frozen meet and greet).

In the other parks, you may have trouble getting a Fast Pass + at 30 days out for the most popular one or two rides (Pandora in Animal Kingdom and Frozen Ever After in Epcot, for example). However, you can always enter the standby lines for those rides first thing in the morning if you are unable to secure a Fast Pass + in advance.

Staying onsite is definitely more convenient, with Magic Bands, Magical Express airport transportation and merchandise delivery directly to your room. But, in my opinion, those conveniences can be skipped or easily substituted with low-cost options.

Airport queue for Disney’s Magical Express

It comes down to this: do you value Disney theming and conveniences of onsite resorts, or would you rather save money and have extra space and free breakfast?

DVC Rentals

“Have you rented a studio through a DVC rental?  If so, did you like it and which vendor did you use? (I was curious about Copper Creek Wilderness – studio, Beach Club – studio, or Animal Kingdom – cheapest studio)”

I have rented DVC points twice. The first time was back in 2008 for my oldest son’s first trip. We rented points to stay Sunday through Thursday nights in a two-bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs. We loved it!

My MIL was with us, and we had so much space. We liked being so close to Disney Springs for additional dinner options, and we utilized our kitchen for breakfast.

Enjoying Saratoga Springs

In early 2015, I rented DVC points to stay in a studio at Kidani Villas at Animal Kingdom. Since there were no standard views left, we had to “settle” for a savannah view. It was incredible! We saw giraffes outside our balcony every day. The cost was similar to what I would have paid for a moderate Disney resort.

The view from our studio

In both cases, I rented points from individual DVC owners I found through the disboards DVC Rent/Trade forum. Points are usually cheaper to rent from individuals than through companies like the DVC Rental Store or David’s Vacation Club Rentals.

Keep in mind that when you rent DVC points, your rental costs are usually non-refundable. Also, there is a slight risk that the owner could cancel your reservation.

Favorite Disney World Resort

“Do you have a favorite WDW resort?  If so, why?  (The 2 of us stayed at the Caribbean Beach resort about 20 years ago during the off season. I was curious about Port Orleans – Riverside but there appears to be mixed reviews especially with the buses.)”

It’s really hard to choose, but my favorite resort is probably Disney’s Polynesian Village. We stayed there last year on a discounted friends and family rate for two nights.

The theming is incredible! We enjoyed free hula lessons, the nightly torch lighting ceremony with drums and the amazing art hanging throughout the resort. My kids loved the renovated pool area, and we really felt like we were far away from the theme parks in a whole other world.

The torch lighting ceremony at Disney’s Polynesian Village

Staying on the monorail loop was super convenient as well, and we love the restaurants at the resort. However, this is one of the most expensive onsite resorts.

Caribbean Beach is my favorite moderate resort. I love how all the buildings are placed around the lake. The pool was renovated a few years ago, and the pirate theming is very fun! I also love the hammocks around the lake and the laid-back atmosphere of the entire resort.

Sunset over Caribbean Beach Resort

My least favorite resort (out of the 9 we have tried) is Port Orleans Riverside. I did not care for the decorations and the somewhat confusing layout of this resort. I kept getting lost the entire week, and there was just too much brown paint at the resort for my taste. Some people love this resort the best, but I just don’t get it.

Onsite Resort Buses

“How hard is it to take the buses for a family of 4 (no strollers, kids will be 11 & 14) during “Peak” June season?”

It’s very easy. At peak times (like after the fireworks shows), Disney runs buses one right after the other. In the mornings, the most you will wait is 20 minutes, but usually not even that much.

It does take longer than you think to take the bus from the parks to your resort and back. However, I’m usually just glad to be resting my feet and not fighting the traffic to get out of the parking lot.

Apps for Disney World

“Which apps do you use for WDW?  Ride wait times, dining reservations, etc.”

I’ve only ever used the My Disney Experience app. It gave me all the info I needed!

Park Hopper Passes   

“I’m hoping to buy 6 day park passes.  Is it worth buying the park hopper v. single day only?”

I personally don’t think it’s worth it to pay extra for park hopping privileges. My family is always too exhausted to tackle a second park, and you can’t reserve rides on Fast Pass + in two different parks in advance for the same day (although you can add rides in your second park on the day of, see this FAQ).

Since you are planning to visit the parks for six days, you will have the opportunity to repeat your favorite parks without having to add the park hopper. Also, you can always add park hoppers during your trip if you really find it necessary.

Disney Articles on Miles for Family

For more information, please see our other articles on Disney World:

10 Tips for First-timers to Disney World

Easiest Path to Disney World for Miles and Points Newbies

Six Orlando Area Family-Friendly Resorts You Can Get Via Hotel Points

Affordable (and Fun) Disney-Area Resorts for a Large Family

Five Super Duper Cheap Hotel Points Redemptions for your Trip to Disney World

Renting an RV at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

Should I Get the Chase Disney Visa for our Disney Trip?

Readers, what advice do you have for this reader’s upcoming Disney World trip?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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17 thoughts on “Disney World Questions from a Reader

  1. A plus advice like always , Nancy. We just got back from 6 nights at theGrand Floridian using a conference rate. We prefer onsite. All your tips were accurate and on point.

    • I hope you had a great time at the Grand Floridian! It’s hard to beat those conference rates. We went to two conventions that enabled us to stay for a deep discount at Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort.

  2. Just got back. The resort bus stars running 45 minute before park opening, which for us is a deal breaker since we want to be at Avatar rope drop 45 min before. I followed Eric’s advice (thank you!) with Sheraton Vistana, great, love the kitchen, 6 miles north of WDW. We even took a nap mid day to escape the heat. Stayed at the bargain All Star Movies to get the Fast Pass reservation 60 days in advance, which we dearly need with the scare availability on Avatar and MK rides. The room was small, but OK given the amount of time we stayed there. I didn’t think that Labor Day weekend will be that crowded. MK firework and projection was fabulous. Just be sure the stake your viewing space well in advance. I made that mistake and ruining my night with complaining about personal space (hint: none). Got Universal ticket thru Chase portal, which is a huge help on budget. Aadvantage car rental still add about $71 tax afterward. Front of the line pass in Universal is a must and worth paying Portofino hotel, also thru Chase UR. Hit 6 parks in 6 days (not recommended) coming home exhausted, but pleased with our family adventure. And umbrella stroller rules!

    • @Stephanie You’re welcome! Be sure to check out the Miles For Family Facebook page, as several people have commented with other suggestions on there.

  3. I’d love to give a Few more Disney Resorts a try. But, dollar for dollar, off site resorts are much better, especially if you are staying for a longer time. Our family of 4 can handle sharing a hotel room for a night or 2, but a week without separate beds, bedrooms, restrooms, TVs, and a few kitchen appliances for home cooked meals would leave us with frustrations and monetary losses that no amount of poolside Disney trivia could make up for.

    You get so much more staying offsite, and the distances to the parks from offsite resorts are often the same, shorter, or not so much longer that you’ll care at all. And Disney transportation is not cool. It will save you on parking and some walking, but it’s not fun waiting for packed busses that are not on your family’s schedule. Rental cars, like the emailer notes above, can fit in a budget easily if you forgo the Disney resort options as you’ll be saving on your room stay.

    We’ve spent a considerable amount of downtime hanging out at Disney resorts, and stayed at All-Star Sports, and Old Key West. Weve loved the environments and theming, particularly at the monorail resorts, AKL, and Port Orleans. But being able to go back to a beautiful condo, set each kid up with their own movie in a separate room, eat a delicious meal that costs 1/4 of what a worse version would cost in the park or at a Disney resort, and cavort around a massive pool complex, all outweigh the benefits of paying 4x as much for theming and entertainment options that you can take advantage of even if you don’t stay at the resort. Between Disney Springs, the parks themselves, and the theming and entertainment options offered at offsite resorts, we’ve never felt as if we’ve shorted ourselves of any Disney magic and theming.

    • @Cheapblackdad I know you are passionate about the value of offsite lodging! I don’t mind one single room for just a few days. My family is likely moving towards condos for our future trips (not just Disney trips). We have already booked condos for our two major trips next year.

  4. WOW! I never knew there were so many things to consider when heading to Disney! We are Military so we ALWAYS stay at the Shades of Green hotel onsite which has terrific pricing and larger rooms than many other Disney hotels. Were planning a trip in a few years with both of my kids (currently ages 4 & 1) and I had no idea how similarly priced the on & off property options were!

  5. My SO worked at Disney twice. He always talks about “When we finally take our daughter there we will do… this, that and the other”. Its kind of overwhelming how much he knows and what he’s seen while working there. I know it will make for a great experience with our little family.

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